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Networks Play NFL's Game

October 10, 2007 3:00 PM

Dallas CowboysThe unpredictable season for the National Football League, where up is down and down is up, is paying dividends to Fox and CBS, who have fine-tuned their national games to feature playoff caliber teams. Meanwhile, ESPN and NBC will make the most of disappointing seasons from New Orleans and Atlanta on Sunday and Monday nights, respectively.

CBS scored big with Dallas’ come-from-behind victory on Monday night and now features a “Battle of the Unbeatens” in its afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. The game is currently set to air in 87 percent of the country (sorry, California) with the network’s top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the broadcast booth.

“The fact that Dallas won is going to put them on a whole new emotional high,” said Mr. Simms. “That would not have happened if the Dallas Cowboys lost. It would have hurt their confidence, and it would’ve taken the edge off of them.”

CBS, with both a morning and an afternoon game on the schedule, will put a battle of upstart teams in the primary morning slot with a game between the Tennessee Titans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is slated to run in 49 percent of the country. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will call the contest.

In other games set for a 1 p.m. kickoff, the Bengals/Chiefs game will be seen by 21 percent of the country and be called by Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon for CBS. Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker are slated for the Texans/Jaguars contest, carried in 10 percent of the country. Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots will host the Dolphins/Browns game, carried in 9 percent of the country.

“In this division it’s going to be a real battle, and both these teams are a little bit different within their division,” said Mr. Tasker. “The Jaguars are defense first, run game, ball control; very smash-mouth, old-time-football type of team. Houston is a little more slick. They have a much more open style of offense, and they want to score some points. Even though these teams are different, I think it is going to be a very close game.”

The only other game to air at 4 p.m. will be the Raiders/Chargers game, set to air in 11 percent of the country, with Dick Enberg and Randy Cross calling the shots.

Fox stations have prominently upgraded the status of this weekend’s game between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers; it now will air in most of the country, including KTTV in Los Angeles, which was originally slated to air the Eagles/Jets game. Both teams have surprised analysts with strong performances this season, and both have only one loss. Fox has slated its top announcing team of Troy Aikman and Kenny Albert, who is filling in for Joe Buck while he handles Fox’s baseball playoffs coverage, for the game. The match will air in 54 percent of the country.

The network will send Matt Vasgersian, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa to New York for the Eagles/Jets game (15 percent coverage), Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger to the Vikings/Bears matchup (10 percent) and Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan to Baltimore for the Rams/Ravens game (4 percent). At 4 p.m., Ron Pitts and Tony Boselli will call the Panthers game at Arizona, slated for 16 percent of the country.

Meanwhile, ESPN, which will air the Giants at Falcons game from Atlanta Monday night, is slating some heavyweights of its own for its football shows. Veteran coach Bill Parcells will be making special appearance on “Sunday NFL Countdown” as the network previews two of Mr. Parcells’ former teams, the Cowboys and Patriots. “MNF” producers also have scheduled Jimmy Kimmel to appear in the booth during the third quarter of the game, his second appearance on the telecast.

Giants QB Eli Manning will join Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a special tease open to “Monday Night Football” and producers will feature new music from Santana (with singles “Into the Night” and “Why Don’t I”) as part of its “Monday Night Musicians” program.

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